This has all the ingredients to be a fine coupling: Bach's Magnificat with Handel's less well-known but challengingly virtuoso Dixit Dominus. A crop of top-notch soloists and a well-respected choir, orchestra and conductor However, whilst the ingredients are all present they don't work well together: there are serious problems with ensemble.
The band plays extremely well and is well-captured by the recording. The upper voice soloists give admirable performances with Jaroussky and Dessay in particularly fine form. However when two or more are gathered together... the result is frankly disappointing. The choruses are occasionally muddy and often lazy-sounding. The basses sound relaxed to the point of indifference at times, the tenors and altos often undershoot notes in rising intervals, and the sopranos "nip" at notes like yapping dogs - the "juravit" and "conquassabit" parts of the Dixit Dominus being prime offenders. Tempi in the choruses are generally a little too fast for comfort and parts of the choir sound as though they've tired and simply given up. Don't get me wrong, the Handel in particular is a fiendishly difficult piece to sing. But this crowd don't do it justice. And there is absolutely no excuse for the tenors to make such an insipid hash of the run at the opening of the relatively uncomplicated 'Fecit potentiam' in the Bach even at this breakneck pace. How this could pass as acceptable to the conductor is beyond me.
On balance these performances are at best average and there are better recordings of both of these pieces, which is a pity since there are some magical moments - such as the 'Et exsultavit' and the 'De torrente in via'. Avoid this and try Parrott's recording of the Handel with the Taverner Choir instead.
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